Asian stock markets were mostly down in jittery trade Thursday as dealers looked for fresh leads, but the euro took a hit from profit-takers looking to lock in gains.
Tokyo finished the morning 0.42 percent lower, Sydney shed 0.79 percent and Seoul dropped 1.88 percent.
Hong Kong was flat and Shanghai slipped 0.42 percent.
Shortly before Tokyo's opening bell, official data showed Japan's exports fell for a fifth straight month in July, but the nation still managed to record a trade surplus as the economy gradually recovers from the March 11 disaster.
Exports fell 3.3 percent from a year ago to 5.78 trillion yen ($75.4 billion), better than market expectation of a 4.4-percent fall, the Finance Ministry said.
"We're trying to confirm whether the recovery trend in exports will continue," Kazuhiro Takahashi, general manager at Daiwa Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.
Takahashi said there was still a trend for buying shares of companies dependent on domestic demand and for avoiding exporters due to the strong yen.
The yen's strength hurts Japanese exporters by making their products more expensive abroad and reducing their repatriated overseas earnings.
The Japanese unit remained high in Thursday trade at 76.60 yen to the dollar, little changed from 76.54 yen in New York.
Forex investors were wary of a possible Japanese intervention after Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he was watching the market "carefully".
The euro came under pressure from profit taking following gains made the previous day.
The single currency stood at $1.4401 and 110.31 yen in midday Tokyo trade, compared with $1.4406 and 110.45 yen in New York overnight.
"The euro rose well on Wednesday, so investors are taking this chance to take profits," said Tokyo Forex and Ueda Harlow senior dealer Yuzo Sakai.
Moves by the Swiss National Bank to stem the rise of the safe-haven franc were met with a shrug, as players felt the bank had not done enough to make a significant difference.
The franc "shot up after the Swiss National Bank didn't announce a peg to the euro to weaken it, despite speculation of such a step," noted John Kyriakopoulos of National Australia Bank.
However, he added: "In our view this is a slow burner".
The euro fetched 1.1386 to the euro, from 1.1434 after falling to as low as 1.1224 on Wednesday, and 0.7906 francs to the dollar, from 0.7909.
Equities markets around the world appeared to have calmed from the see-saw frenzy of the last fortnight, with the main European bourses changing little on Wednesday.
Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed flat, up just 4.28 points, or 0.04 percent, at 11,410.21.
Gold opened in Asia at $1,787.00-$1,788.00 an ounce, down slightly on its Wednesday close of $1,791.00-$1,792.00.
Oil was lower as investors looked to more data indicating the health of the US economy, the world's biggest oil consuming nation.
The US government is expected to release figures on jobless claims and inflation in the world's biggest economy, which is struggling to avoid dipping back into recession.
New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate light sweet crude for September delivery, was down 33 cents to $87.25 a barrel.
Brent North Sea crude for October fell 30 cents to $110.30.